I am an engineer by training (BS & MS in Aerospace Engineering, how I came to be an entrepreneur is a story for another day). As an engineer, I love to build build build! Love new features, love shiny toys, love thinking about and making my ideas become reality. Because, well, I can.
That passion for building, when unchecked, gets in the way of being a successful entrepreneur in a multitude of ways. If you think that by building a neat and shiny product, the heavens will part and customers will come beating down your door, well, good luck to you. I won’t say anymore on that, I’ll assume you know better.
But even if you realize that you’re going to have to get out there and hustle for your customers, there’s another trap that’s a little less obvious. You have to actually LIKE your customers. The more you like them, the more you’ll want to spend time with them, the deeper the relationship you’ll build, the more you’ll work for them, and the more vested they become in you, your business, and your success. It becomes a highly symbiotic relationship where both parties bend over backwards to help each other succeed.
My first bootstrap company taught me that very important lesson. While I respected the restaurant owners that were my customers, I found that I had very little in common with them and had difficulty “connecting” with them. In the end, I acted like a “vendor” more than a partner. Nowadays, I always ask myself, “Would I enjoy the bar scene at a convention attended by my customers?” It’s definitely a non-traditional way of determining what industry to enter, but if I’m going to have to go out there and hustle, I might as well do it in an atmosphere I enjoy, with people that I’d go the extra mile for.
BackMyBook has the perfect customer for me: writers. Writers fascinate me; their creativity inspires me, their intellect challenges me, their perseverance motivates me. I love hanging out with them and going to writer’s workshops, sci-fi cons, and yes, even the romance writers convention. They know that I respect them, and work hard to make a difference for them. In return, some of my customers go so far above and beyond for me that it’s unbelievable. Sure, there’s the customary referrals and testimonials. But one writer/friend/customer cleared his entire weekend to fly in and co-present with me at a writers conference, all on his volition and dime. He happens to have made the NY Times Best Seller list, so it’s a BIG F’ING DEAL! Another is making sure that I get my own workshop at a national convention and is hosting a dinner party at her house to introduce me to other influential writers. She’s a personal chef who usually gets paid for her cooking and parties! It’s an amazing feeling when your customers work this hard for you, and it motivates me to work all that much harder for them!
That’s just some of the magic that I’m experiencing because I love my customers. Do yourself a favor, pick a business where you’ll love working with your customers. It will make will make your journey so much more gratifying and you’ll build the most important thing of all: friends.